Gaming has transcended, somehow, the status of mere “hobby”, to become an important market sector. Years ago, it was all about making a game, producing it, publishing it and selling it as much as possible, but then MMORPGs and their subscription based format came, changing everything. After some time, all the economy surrounding the MMO world has changed a lot. Let’s give this topic some thoughts.
Park Associates has made a research on this topic, showing some drastic changes on the way MMO players tend to spend their money into virtual worlds.
“Gamers are investing real money in virtual items in Farmville, World of Warcraft, and other online games, to the point they are filing lawsuits to establish ‘ownership’ of these virtual goods,” said Pietro Macchiarella, research analyst, Parks Associates. “The enormous player base, availability on multiple devices, and the introduction of instruments such as Facebook Credits contribute to growing revenues”
“It is becoming increasingly difficult to justify subscription fees,” Macchiarella said. “Thanks to social games and free-to-play MMOs, both casual and hardcore players have the option of playing quality games online for free. The virtual-items model that has proven so successful in Asia is finally generating significant revenues in North America.”
Adding players willing to buy a game and pay to play it, was awesome to a lot of companies publishing MMOs. These games were difficult and complex, so many players attracted by the awesome persistent virtual worlds, came to play avidly. Some of them, though, were not willing to spend months, or even years to get what they wanted in their MMOs. Then a potential market appeared: “gold selling”. We all know “gold sellers” were a problem, but they were there because players wanted them, not all of them of course, but enough of them to maintain a strong profitable activity, through hundreds of websites dedicated to earn money at the cost of “lazy” players.
Every single bussiness has a main target, making money. For that, you need to improve your product, your services… you need to grow, always. All the companies saw the potential in having players paying legally for virtual items instead of using illegal services. As you can see in this report, everything is changing on the way players optimize their money on virtual worlds and game publishers react to those changes. The companies didn’t create those changes, were the players instead. Remember, the market gives us what we want.
Anyway, as long as the future MMOs are good games, balanced and fair, I don’t care about what is the way we pay for them.
Top image by Rolf van der Tang (Munten van Dorestad) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons